Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, covers The Crawling Terror, the latest Doctor Who tie-in novel to feature Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, published by BBC Books in the UK.
“A fast paced, entertaining novel that reads very much like an episode of the series. It’s always fun, blending some wacky conspiracies with interesting enemies to keep the momentum high throughout the novel.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“Well, I doubt you’ll ever see a bigger insect.”
Gabby Nichols is putting her son to bed when she hears her daughter cry out. ‘Mummy there’s a daddy longlegs in my room!’ Then the screaming starts… Alan Travers is heading home from the pub when something rushes his face — a spider’s web. Then something huge and deadly lumbers from the shadows… Kevin Alperton is on his way to school when he is attacked by a mosquito. A big one. Then things get dangerous.
But it isn’t the dead man cocooned inside a huge mass of web that worries the Doctor. It isn’t the swarming, mutated insects that make him nervous. It isn’t an old man’s garbled memories of past dangers that intrigue him.
With the village cut off from the outside world, and the insects becoming more and more dangerous, the Doctor knows that no one is safe. Not unless he can decode the strange symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle, and unravel a mystery dating back to the Second World War.
I’ve been a massive fan of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor so far, even if the individual episodes of Season 8 haven’t exactly been spectacular to say the least. So it was welcoming then that when I did actually get around to reading my first Doctor Who tie-in novel featuring the new Doctor, It wasn’t a complete disappoint, instead providing something that allowed for a read that’s just simply sheer fun, and feels more like a conspiracy thriller than Doctor Who has in ages, making The Crawling Terror as a result feel very much like Dan Brown with aliens.
The novel itself feels as though it could easily be an episode of the series (case in point, when writing novel in this sentence, I accidentally wrote episode first) and it’s got all your ingredients there – a typical English backdrop (in this case a small village) and an alien twist on something historical, However, with the advantage of a novelization, Tucker doesn’t have to be held back by the constraints of budget and time-limit, and allows to as a result create a fast paced thriller that works very well, and I had very little issues with this given its intentions as a tie-in.
The characters are familiar and Tucker gets the interaction between the Doctor and Clara very well, for example, a highlight early on is when they first arrive in Wiltshire (the location of the events in this novel), and Clara is disappointed that it’s not an alien planet, and just Wiltshire. The exchanges between these two continue throughout the novel and it’s no surprise that the book is at its strongest when the two are together. But not everything is perfect though – The Doctor himself feels a bit flat and underdeveloped as a character, with nothing really distinguishing himself to be the Twelfth Doctor. He could have easily been the Eleventh or even Tenth and I wouldn’t have noticed the difference, but that in large part is probably due to the fact that this novel was released (IIRC) before the first episode of the new series even aired, meaning that the writer was probably constrained by what he had to show as a result.
The secondary characters however shined when it came to this novel with a variety of people getting plenty of pagetime. It was good to see Tucker not just making everything about the two main recurring characters, and as a result this allowed for a better novel character-wise, which was very good to see.
The plot speeds along at a lightning-fast pace and if this was an episode of the series then It would most certainly be more in tune with the fast-paced The Bells of Saint John or The Eleventh Hour as opposed to the recent Listen episode. The conspiracy element of the novel works well and there’s a reasonable explanation for the mystery that’s presented here, which dates back to the Second World War in a big way. I liked how Tucker used the TARDIS in this novel as well, making a refreshing change from where writers in either the show itself or the novels only use it to get the Doctor to a location where he will stay still for an entire episode.
The Crawling Terror then, is a pretty good tie-in novel. Don’t go in expecting to read the novel equivalent of instant-classics like Blink or The Doctor’s Wife, but it’s very much one of the stronger ones that I’ve been able to read from the series. Doctor Who fans will be entertained by this one for sure, and as a result I can wholeheartedly recommend it.